The Wildcats are coming off an ugly, 51-35 win against Western Michigan that bumped their defensive efficiency into the Top 100 on KenPom.
The Delta Devils have only won once against Division I competition this year, and the victory was by one point against Longwood. But, they have experience playing against BCS schools on the road.
Already, head coach Chico Potts has challenged his group with games against Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Georgia Tech. The Delta Devils will not be fazed in a minimally filled Welsh-Ryan Arena with students on winter break.
Still, Northwestern’s sheer talent gives it the upper hand.
The Wildcats been receiving great performances from junior JerShon Cobb and senior Drew Crawford.
Cobb has been carrying a large part of the scoring this season with 13.6 points per game, and he is also second on the team in assists.
Crawford, who dealt with a back injury at the end of November, has struggled in his last three outings, though, with 11.3 points per game on 28.9% shooting.`
Sophomore center Alex Olah has also looked better recently. Although he struggled on Dec. 4 against NC State, he recorded 11 points, seven rebounds, and four assists against UCLA on Nov. 29.
Olah is also coming off arguably his best performance of the year with 10 points and six rebounds against Western Michigan, which boasts one of the best players in the MAC in 6’11” center Shayne Whittington.
Mississippi Valley State boasts electric scorer Anthony McDonald, a junior who ranks No. 4 in the SWAC with 16.4 points per game. He has scored as many as 26 points against Monmouth this season, and he has performed well against schools from power-six conferences with 15.6 points per contest.
McDonald is also a threat from deep, as he shoots 41.9% from beyond the arc.
The Wildcats will also have to contain 6’6 freshman James Currington, who is averaging 14.3 points over his last three games.
Defensively, Mississippi Valley State is among the worst teams in the country. Their defensive efficiency ranks No. 346 out of 351, and opponents’ effective field-goal percentage is better than 60%.
Northwestern has struggled a ton on offense this season, but this could be an opportunity to get the wheels turning.
However, the Wildcats need to keep the tempo at their speed. While the Wildcats average 63.9 possessions per game, the Delta Devils average 73.6.
This season, Northwestern is 2-3 in games with 65 possessions or more.
Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. CT at Welsh-Ryan Arena, and the game will be televised on Big Ten Network.
All advanced statistics are courtesy of KenPom.